Why General Mills Is Discontinuing Two Of Its Iconic Brands

Many people think of General Mills as the king of cereal, and while that may be true, the company probably wouldn't be where it is today without its contribution to the world of packaged dry dinners. Fifty years ago, the invention of Hamburger Helper changed the game for families in the US who needed a quick, economical way to get a semi-homemade meal on the table. With the assurance of the Helping Hand mascot, Lefty displayed the box, people who were either busy from work or novice cooks could take whatever pound of meat they had on hand, mix it with the dried pasta and seasoning contents, and transform it into dinner for the whole family. Per General Mills, 27% of households reportedly bought the product the first year it was released.

The product's initial success cemented General Mills as a pioneer in convenience foods. Soon, the company began releasing not only new editions of Helper products, but also, other dry dinner mixes, like Suddenly Pasta Salad. However, it appears to finally be the end of an era almost a half-century later. According to Food Business News,  General Mills announced that it had officially landed a deal to sell Helper and Suddenly Salad brands to Eagle Foods for $610 million dollars. "With this divestiture, we are continuing to reshape our portfolio and advance our Accelerate strategy," General Mills Group President of North America Retail said in a statement.

Cutting ties with older brands like Helper and Suddenly Salad will make room for new ventures

The decision to cut Helper and Suddenly Salad isn't exactly unexpected. In 2021, Bloomberg reported that General Mills was in talks to shed its packaged dinner brands in order to overhaul its portfolio and focus on businesses that appeal to broader demographics.While many elder Millennials (and Gen X) probably have fond memories of enjoying a Hamburger Helper or Suddenly Salad, the products may not have the same appeal that they once did. In 2016, The Columbus Dispatch reported retail sales for Helper had declined that year. At the time, the publication linked this to Millennials' distrust in the nutrition value of prepackaged convenience as they tended to prefer fresh foods in the grocery produce section.

General Mills tried to modernize the Helper brand with a Twitter presence from the mascot "Lefty," ditching the "hamburger" part of its name (via Digiday). The brand even released a hip-hop mixtape, but apparently that wasn't enough to get people to buy boxes of the seasoned dry pasta at the rate people did in previous years. With the sale of Suddenly Salad and Helper, General Mills may be able to pour more focus into other ventures, such as the multiple dog food brands it acquired over the past few years, including Tyson Foods' Pet Treats and Blue Buffalo Pet Products